Displaced Squatters Allege Fraud by Village Committee
By Moe Myint 20 June 2017
YANGON – A group of displaced squatters in Yangon’s Hlegu Township have opened a fraud case against a 27-member Aung Yadana village development committee that sold them land already owned by the government, one complainant told The Irrawaddy on Monday.
Police deputy Maj Maung Maung Oo of Hlegu police station confirmed that the case was filed last week. The head of the committee, U Pyone Cho, is named in the case and is believed to be on the run.
Thousands of houses have been built in recent years along the Yangon-Naypyidaw highway, making up such villages as Yadana Aung, Aung Yadana, Sein Lan, Gant Gaw Kyun, Aung Thu Kha and Sa Khum Gyi. The authorities recognize many of the residents as “landlord squatters,” or local property owners who illegally live on government land and then resell it to others.
The department of Yangon Division’s director general U Yu Khaing estimated that more than 5,000 thatched houses have been constructed on government-owned land and that authorities cleared 90 percent of the structures in Hlegu within one week. The Irrawaddy reported that on June 12 alone, the authorities demolished around 400 homes in Kyauk Aing, located near the Yangon-Naypyidaw highway.
Five of the nine complainants in the Aung Yadana case, including U Thein Aung, who spoke to The Irrawaddy, went to the divisional government office on Monday morning. Accompanied by other squatters, they intended to present details to officials of how they had been misled by the Aung Yadana village development committee when they purchased land. However, police barred them from entering the building and instructed them to make an appointment.
U Thein Aung said that nearly 1,500 evicted people had constructed temporary shelters from the materials left when their homes were demolished by the authorities, while others were staying in monasteries like Ye Baw in Hlegu Township’s Tar Son village, which has been providing food, transport and accommodation for displaced people.
“Hundreds of people are living on the roadside without a good roof, and parents had already registered their children at the government schools,” U Thein Aung said. “We just want to know how the regional government will oversee these challenges. They are real homeless people.”
The Ministry of Construction and private developer Alliance Stars Group of Companies signed a profit-sharing contract in 2016 lasting eight years. Their project in Hlegu Township, “Eco Green City,” lays out plans for affordable housing, an international school, hospital, golf course, and rest area. Construction is scheduled to begin after the squatters in the area have been removed.
U San Tun, a local advocate for the homeless, was involved in the process of proposing that the Union government establish a new 100-person village in Aung Yadana. However, the efforts were reportedly interrupted when the village development committee re-sold government land plots to brokers and the community rapidly increased.
“The government should have examined who were real squatters before demolishing the houses. Now, the real homeless people have been left in the cold, including a woman who recently delivered a baby,” U San Tun said.
While one member of the Aung Yadana village development committee was reportedly arrested, U San Tun said that authorities have not been able to locate the other members, and that they “absconded” before the squatter houses were destroyed.